Report: Imperfect fuel-saving tech contributed to Ford's fall in quality

Upcoming Ford EV & plug-in hybrid vehicles

As the only one of the "Big Three" to not declare bankruptcy during the economic crisis, and the only one to not require government investment to simply stay in existence, Ford could easily be called the winner of Detroit Wars. The company came, it saw, it... conquered probably isn't the right word, but at least it survived when no one else did.

However, there may be something to be said for having gone through the refining fire of failure. As GM and Chrysler fight their way back to relevance, Ford is finding that surviving doesn't mean surviving unscathed.

In the most recent set of JD Powers surveys, Ford didn't bring up the rear, but it did take the biggest fall. Stories about the problems with Ford's elaborate infotainment system have become commonplace, and it's not surprising that many of the complaints that surfaced in the survey were targeted at SYNC and MyFord Touch. Some of these complaints originated from real issues with the do-it-all electronics, while some came from failure to train dealers in how to handle questions originating from these complex systems.

However, not every issue came out of Ford's collaboration with Microsoft. A large number of complaints originated with the systems that Ford is using to match (or beat) competitors when it comes to fuel economy. Engines and transmissions tuned to hit those 40 miles per gallon values left consumers fuming over sluggish starts and awkward shifts. It would be easy to see this as a general problem with the expectations of a public running into the gas-coddling limits of internal combustion technology, but the thing is, other manufacturers saw fewer complaints in this area. The impression is that Ford has had more trouble getting its high mileage tech sorted out.

Ford recognizes it has a problem, and the company is devoting increased resources to smooth out performance both in the passenger cabin and under the hood. They're also taking a lesson from consumer electronics giants and spending more time training their dealers in how to handle vehicles whose interface is as complicated as any smartphone. Still, with Ford's first EV due in showrooms within months and plug-ins right behind, how Ford handles these issues with its ICE vehicles might have a big effect on the confidence consumers will need to jump into an even more electrified Ford.

[Source: Automotive News]

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